RICHMOND HILL — Nat and Delene Broeckling of Bryan County are the first Georgians to complete all three recreation challenges sponsored by Georgia’s state park system. The couple earned bragging - rights, T-shirts and the personal pride that comes with knowing they completed the Canyon Climbers, Muddy Spokes and Park Paddlers clubs.
The Canyon Climbers Club encourages hikers to complete trails at Amicalola Falls, Cloudland Canyon, Tallulah Gorge and Providence Canyon state parks. The Muddy Spokes Club sends mountain bikers out to tackle 11 state parks. The Park Paddlers Club urges canoers and kayakers to explore six of Georgia’s lakes and rivers, including George L. Smith State Park near Statesboro and Crooked River State Park in St. Marys.
Nat Broeckling is a project engineer for Rayonier Performance Fibers in Jesup, and Delene Broeckling owns Curves Fitness Center in Richmond Hill. Their daughter attends the University of Georgia. The couple moved from Whitehall, Ark., in 2007 and decided exploring state parks would be a good way to get acquainted with their new home state.
"We have literally seen the landscapes and nature of Georgia from the ground up," Nat Broeckling said. "We have crossed the state hiking, biking and paddling, enjoyed breathtaking sights and gained knowledge about the history of the state. Our experiences and memories will last a lifetime."
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ State Parks Division created the Canyon Climbers, Muddy Spokes and Park Paddlers clubs to encourage people to exercise in the outdoors. Many would agree that climbing a 1,000-foot canyon or biking a 12-mile trail is more adventurous and challenging than spending 30 minutes on a step machine.
"I think the park clubs are a great way to challenge residents to ‘get out, get dirty, get fit,’" Broeckling said, referring to the agency’s slogan.
The couple said their favorite paddles were Stephen C. Foster State Park in the Okefenokee Swamp and George L. Smith State Park near Statesboro.
"It was neat to paddle through the cypress trees at George L. Smith," Broeckling said. "There’s a marked trail out in the lake, and you were in the middle of everything."
For more information about Georgia’s 48 state parks, call 770-389-7401 or go to www.GeorgiaStateParks.org. The website offers maps, photos and telephone numbers for each state park and the recreation clubs.